What happened is I visited one of the Blitz Sports Pubs...in this case Blitz Ladd down on Southeast 11th Avenue. I did not venture there to further research the brewpub question. Nope. I stopped in because I wanted to check out the space, the beer list and the food. Just another adventure.
|Hard to miss the Blitz logo|
In case you aren't aware, there are currently four of these joints in or near Portland. Besides the one I visited, there are two in Northwest (Blitz Pearl and Blitz 21)and another one in Tigard (Blitz 99W). Blitz Ladd is the second location. Blitz Pearl is the original.
I initially thought the Blitz chain was headquartered outside Oregon. These are large spaces, (Blitz 21 is evidently smaller than the others) and they've made a substantial investment in the brand identity. But the Blitz chain is locally owned. And they are expanding. Someone I know in the biz tells me Blitz has plans to open in Beaverton and in the Hollywood District. I'll get back to that shortly.
|On the big board: 23 standard beers, 13 rotating taps|
These places offer plenty of distractions. They've got gaming galore (ping-pong, shuffleboard, Foosball, video games and more). Large, wall-mounted TVs dominate the visual decor. The menu is standard pub fare and, more importantly, the beer list is damn good. Blitz Ladd has 36 taps pouring mostly great beers.
The Counter Argument
These Blitz pubs may offer the perfect platform on which to mount the argument that production breweries may, indeed, be the wave of the future in craft beer. Over the course of the last few years, we have seen an increasing number of places large and small that feature great beers. Now we have the Blitz chain and Buffalo Wild Wings, both enormous operations, hawking great beer.
The proliferation of places that serve craft beer not brewed in-house has implications for the industry. It will potentially help production breweries and hurt brewpubs. How so, you may rightfully ask.
|The $6 Blitz burger with fries.|
First, places like Blitz add to the plethora of opportunities for production breweries to sell their stuff. They are jumping into space already occupied by bottleshops, dive bars, bowling alleys and taprooms. This is to say nothing of the grocery and convenience store channel, which is growing exponentially in Oregon and elsewhere. Today's production breweries have nearly unlimited markets. Of course, brewpubs have the same access...but many don't have the brewing capacity to fully tap it.
Second, and more importantly, large pubs like Blitz may sap business away from brewpubs. They offer a greater variety of beers in the company of a comparable menu. There's also the fact that Blitz, (Buffalo Wild Wings, too) offers gaming and entertainment amenities you aren't going to find in your average brewpub. These folks are offering a seriously viable alternative to the brewpub.
|Off-street parking at Blitz' rumored future location|
Consider this. The rumor mill says Blitz is working a plan to take over the former Poor Richards in Hollywood. This area is bursting with positive energy. The nearby Hollywood theater will soon get a new marquee and there's construction happening next door. It's a hot strip. Sweetening the pot for Blitz is that the Poor Richards location has plentiful off-street parking.
There are brewpubs in the area. Columbia River Brewing is to the east across the street on 40th Avenue. The Laurelwood flagship is up the street on Sandy. Alameda Brewing and Fire on the Mountain are a short distance away on Fremont. Does anyone think a Blitz Sports Pub in the area isn't going to have an impact on those businesses?
|Hard to miss the Blitz logo|
It occurs to me that the Blitz Sports Pubs are merely part of the evolution of the craft beer movement. Ten years ago, people who wanted good beer found it almost exclusively in brewpubs. Today, the ground has shifted. People now know what good beer is...thank the brewpub model for that. They know they don't want Bud or Coors. Instead, they demand good beer wherever they go. Blitz, along with other large and small venues, is simply tapping into the fact that craft beer has an established following.
We'll have to wait and see how this pans out. If you go out to Yelp or any of the other places where people comment on pubs and restaurants, you'll find Blitz pubs aren't getting the greatest marks for food or service. Some brewpubs are in the same boat, but I suspect Blitz needs to clean up its act if it's going to compete with the better brewpubs for the better customers.
|Blitz the dog is interested in the Blitz burger|
I'm working up some thoughts on strategies the brewpubs and smaller breweries are using or are likely to use to ensure that customers continue to come through their doors. The brewpub is certainly not dead. Next week.